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Int J Body Compos Res. 2013;11(1):9-16.

Chemical-shift water-fat MRI of white adipose depots: inability to resolve cell size differences.

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Department of Nutrition Sciences, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA.



Adipocyte cell size varies among individuals and importantly, is inversely correlated with insulin sensitivity, and modifiable by weight loss or pharmaceutical agents. However, there are no non-invasive, in vivo methods for adipocyte cell size determination. Here we apply Chemical-Shift Water-Fat MRI to in vivo measures of subcutaneous (inguinal) and visceral (gonadal) white adipose tissue (WAT) to determine whether the fat-signal fraction (FF) is a sensitive indicator of adipocyte cell size.


C57BL/6J male mice (8 weeks old) were singly housed and fed a low-fat diet, high-fat diet or very high-fat diet (n = 16 or 15/group) for 8 weeks. Food intake, body weight and composition were measured; CS-MRI was performed on a 9.4 Tesla Bruker magnet with respiratory gating and anesthesia. Histology was acquired for gonadal WAT; both gonadal and inguinal WAT were fixed with osmium tetroxide and then measured through Image J for cell size.


Mice fed with higher fat content diets gained significantly more body weight, fat and lean mass while maintaining higher energy intakes over the 8 weeks. There was no significant difference in fat fraction for either gonadal (P = 0.1295) or inguinal (P = 0.4704) WAT among the three groups, despite significantly larger adipocytes (P <0.0001) in mice on high fat diets.


Although diet-induced obesity significantly increased the amount of fat mass, as well as mean and overall white adipocyte cell size, the CS-MRI measured fat fraction between groups were not significantly different. These results do not support the utility of CS-MRI measured FF for in vivo determination of adipocyte cell size.


White adipose tissue; fat fraction; gonadal; inguinal


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